Celebrate National Public Health Week
The week of April 3-9 is designated as National Public Health Week, organized for more than 20 years by the American Public Health Association, who champions the health of all people and communities. During the first full week of April each year, APHA brings together communities across the United States to observe National Public Health Week as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation. The American Public Health Association strengthen the profession of public health; foster understanding, engagement and support for key public health issues; and directly influence public policy to improve global health.
Every year, the Association develops a national campaign to educate the public, policymakers and practitioners about issues related to each year’s theme. This year’s theme is “Healthiest Nation 2030,” with the goal of making the United States the Healthiest Nation in One Generation — by 2030. Despite the tremendous improvements public health has made in the 20th and 21st Centuries, Americans live shorter lives and suffer more health issues than people in other high-income countries.
Chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity are among the most common and costly health conditions impacting the nation’s health. Just four behaviors are at the root of a large portion of the nation’s chronic disease burden. Those behaviors are: physical inactivity, poor eating habits, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption. Here are some facts from the American Public Health Association:
- As of 2012, about half of all U.S. adults were living with at least one chronic health condition. Such conditions account for seven out of every 10 deaths annually, while managing and treating chronic disease eats up more than three-quarters of the country’s health care costs. For example, in 2012, direct medical costs related to diabetes came to $176 billion, while lost productivity due to diabetes came to $69 billion.
- In 2014, nearly half of U.S. adults did not meet recommended guidelines for weekly physical activity.
- Even though a diet full of fruits and vegetables helps reduce chronic disease risk, less than 18 percent of adults in every state ate recommended amounts of fruit and less than 14 percent ate recommended amounts of veggies. U.S. children don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, either.
- Despite dramatic declines in the U.S. smoking rate, cigarette use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the nation. As of 2015, more than 36 million U.S. adults still smoked cigarettes. Also, electronic cigarette use among youth has tripled in recent years, exposing them to the harms of nicotine and the risk of addiction.
- In 2014, nearly a quarter of U.S. adults engaged in binge drinking in the prior month. Also, more than 16 million adults had an alcohol use disorder
Chronic diseases, associated with unhealthy and risky behaviors, are often entirely preventable. Those behaviors are often shaped by the environments in which we live, work, learn and play. The public health community can meet the challenge of making a healthier nation by assisting people adopt healthy behaviors, making healthier choices and preventing the onset of costly chronic diseases.
A Healthy community can be defined as one that:
- Meets everyone’s basic needs such as safe, affordable and accessible food, water, housing, education, health care and places to play.
- Provides supportive levels of economic and social development through living wage, safe and healthy job opportunities, a thriving economy and healthy development of children and adolescents.
- Promotes quality and sustainability of the environment through tobacco and smoke-free spaces, clean air, soil and water, green and open spaces and sustainable energy use.
- Places high value on positive social relationships through supportive and cohesive families and neighborhoods, honoring culture and tradition, robust social and civic engagement and violence prevention.